Tinga Safari Lodge hosted us for a site inspection earlier this year. It is one of those extremely expensive lodges that has garnered a name for itself as one of the best in the Greater Kruger National Park. So, as can be expected, we went there with extremely high expectations…which is always dangerous as it quite often leads to severe disappointment.
Situated on the bank of the Sabie River, which is one of the few rivers that has water in it year round, it sports a location advantage above many of the lodges in the area, especially during the drier months, because of the very high concentration of wildlife that make their home close to this reliable water source.
At a glance
Food: Some of the best I have ever had
Game Ranger: Good
Safari Vehicle: Well-kept with compartments for water, jerseys and other items
As is normal for us, we arrived during lunch. The drive in was quite lovely as you drive part of the way through the Kruger National Park, which is one of my favorite places on earth.
Arrival at the main lodge, I was particularly blown away by the view of the Sabi River from the main lodge. We were greeted by a view of the massive tree by the deck, the green river banks and a beautiful herd of elephants playing in the river. I must say, this was the only time I have ever arrived at a lodge and I immediately felt that feeling that comes over me when my body truly realizes that I am in the bush. It is a feeling of relaxation, where the rest of the world just melts away.
The lodge manager met us upon arrival where we signed the normal indemnity forms. While we did this, the porters took our luggage to our rooms.
With all of this done, we went to lunch
Tinga Lodge has one of the most beautiful settings of any lodge anywhere in Africa. It’s very hard to explain in mere text the stunning atmosphere one experiences while sitting on the deck, underneath a massive tree while watching elephants play in the river. It is just a magic that is hard to find, even when living in Africa.
Upon reading the lunch menu, I wasn’t much impressed. There were the two standard meat options with a vegetarian option. I was also surprised to see a steak roll on the menu…I mean honestly, a steak roll and chips on a gourmet menu. I remember quite vividly how I turned to our operations director and said this was ridiculous, especially at the prices that they charge. I was about to eat those words…in massive heaps.
Having to check out this “gourmet steak roll”, I remember joking about it while waiting for our food to arrive. When the meal came, the chips were nothing special. It is the standard crispy French fries you would find anywhere. The steak roll though…that was something completely different. The meat was tender and incredibly delicately spiced. It was without a doubt the best steak roll I have ever had in my entire life. I can go so far as to say that is was one of the best meals I have had in my entire life. It was so good, I ordered another one and skipped dessert. As an extreme sweet tooth, this is something that is almost unheard of. It was that good.
Service at lunch was very efficient. The serving staff were incredibly friendly and quite warm. I personally love the stories people who live in the bush tell and it didn’t take much encouragement from us to have them tell us about some of the adventures that they had while living in the bush.
After lunch, we were escorted to our suites. The elevated walkway we used to get to our suites was surrounded by beautiful trees and lush vegetation.
When I entered my suite, there was a lovely view waiting for me. The suites have large glass windows that look out on the river and it was very special seeing the elephants still playing in the water.
The suite itself is very spacious, with a large bed, beautiful bathroom, private deck and a plunge pool.
The thing that interested me most though was the bath. It was very large and quite deep. It was so large that I could lie down in it and both my shoulders wouldn’t touch the side (my shoulders are quite broad and small baths are always an annoyance to me).
Once I have been given the tour by the lodge staff, I immediately ran myself a bath. The bath looks out on the river and I had the most relaxing time watching the elephants play while just soaking away. It is the only time in my life that I have ever had a safari while in the bath…
Afternoon/evening game drive
As is the norm, we met up at the main lodge for high tea. The spread was quite impressive with it being almost an entire meal on its own. Of course, being a sweet tooth, the cupcakes were consumed with great gusto by myself.
The concession is absolutely gorgeous. I had expected with the dense growth that the area has, it would be quite hard to spot animals, but our ranger and tracker did an amazing job to show us everything that they could find. We managed to spot some lions, hippos, buffalo, impala, kudu, wildebeest, elephants and other smaller animals such as scrub hares. We were also treated to some of the most beautiful bird sightings, including the gorgeous fish eagle.
Arriving back at the lodge, we were greeted by the lodge manager, a warm damp towel and a welcoming smile.
This is where I started to notice a reoccurring theme at Tinga when it came to meals. They take something boring and make it amazing. For starters I had the butternut soup. There is nothing quite as boring as soup. The best I have ever said about soup was that it was “good”, and this was just to not hurt my mother’s feelings. The soup at Tinga was amazing.
For mains, I ended up having the quail and once again, the chef was showing off with what he/she could do with spices. It is a truly amazing experience to go to one of the most beautiful places in Africa and have every meal be an adventure on its own.
As I love fruit, I took a delicious fruit platter for dessert. The fruit was fresh and I was surprised by the variety.
With the standard package, local drinks are included. Normally this means that the house wines are good, but not the best and we usually order from the premium list. At Tinga, their selection of house wines were quite brilliant and it was one of the few times that we skipped the premium list purely because the house wines were very well selected.
After dinner, we retired for the night. I must admit, the beds are very comfy.
Morning game drive
The morning game drive was an adventure. Early on, as the sun was coming up, we spotted a leopard. We spent the majority of the game drive following him through some really thick growth. Driving off-road is one of the most exciting things one can do and following this beautiful creature as he just went about his business just enhanced the entire experience.
Tinga must have heard about my bias against breakfast. I have often lamented that breakfast is one of the most boring meals one can have. Tinga went out of their way to prove me as wrong as possible.
The normal cold breakfast was served, with serial and other healthy options. Then came the fruit platter, which was filled with freshly cut fruit. The variety and size of the fruit platter surprised me no end and with my sweet tooth, I gorged myself. Then came the breakfast menu which served the hot breakfast. With such a large variety (I can’t remember the amount of choices, but it was quite large), it was hard to choose. I ended up going for the waffle, just to be able to say that I was eating waffles in the middle of the wilderness by the Sabie River. Bragging rights are important you know.
No lodge is perfect. Some come close, but none are perfect. Tinga is one of those places that come very close, however I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the few things that did catch my eye.
This happened only once, but during lunch one of the guests went to have a cigarette under the massive tree by the deck. The lodge provided the guest quickly with an ashtray. When we came back for high tea, I was sad to see that this ashtray wasn’t cleared, with the cigarette buds still there. This I must say, only happened once. Because I was looking for it, I always saw the staff clear this away after this guest had his cigarette, so I assume one of the managers also noticed it and made sure the staff took care of it.
Each suite comes with a private deck, complete with private splash pool and sun bathing chairs. The deck also overlooks the Sabie River and has a wall that blocks your view from your neighbor (whose suite is quite a distance away). However, I was surprised to notice, for about 1 foot at the edge of the large deck, I could actually see about 1 foot for my neighbor’s deck…right at the front edge. This was a small issue as avoiding that one small area was quite easy, however it needed to be mentioned.
Mosquitos at dinner
Being in the bush, you can’t help the insects. Mosquitos, with the river so close, were abundant. The lodge obviously take whatever precautions they can and with mosquito spray this is quite enough to avoid being eaten alive. Due to my haste to get to dinner, I had forgotten spray myself with mosquito spray and I was eaten alive. I asked our waiting staff to provide me with some spray, however there was none in the main lodge. I would have thought it would be standard to have this where everyone is eating dinner right by the river, as I am sure I am not the only guest that has ever forgotten to spray beforehand. However, I must say that they did quickly source me some spray and the mosquitos left me alone after that.
Tinga is a true favorite of mine. Since our site inspection, I have been back on several occasions and the experience is always top class. The lodge is expensive, however the experience is the type you would come back to year after year and see it as a highlight of any holiday.
The few small things that did catch my eye didn’t detract from the experience at all and I will keep going back again and again.